The biggest news to sweep across Australia this week was nothing to do with global warming, unrest in the middle east or the drought that is still affecting this country. This biggest news was that Instagram had removed the number of 'public likes' from our Instagram accounts, which in itself says something for the influence that the social media platform has over the general population.
"We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love," Mia Garlick, Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy, said in a statement.
The change in users not being able to see the physical number of Likes for individual posts was first implemented in Canada with roll outs now across Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Japan, Italy and Brazil.
Whilst many social media influencers who make their living from Instagram are not as welcoming to the change, mental health organisations are embracing the move. One report by the Royal Society for Public Health in 2017 revealed Instagram as the most 'negative' experience when it came to their participants scoring the user experience over 14 health and well-being issues with YouTube being listed as the most positive. The overall conclusion of the report was that "social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis."
Instagram has also announced several other new features to assist in combating bullying and make the user experience more positive as was explained by Peter Black, Senior Lecturer at QUT and member of the Queensland Anti-Cyber Bullying Taskforce, to ABC Radio Brisbane.
"Other things that Instagram have announced in the future is there is going to be a feature for comments. Which means if someone types a comment (that the algorithms detect as being nasty, aggressive or negative), there will be a prompt to check 'Do you really want to post that' with a link to information and resources just to encourage people to think before they post." Said Mr Black.
Instagram will also be introducing a new feature called 'Restrict' which means a user can block the comments and interactions of another user without being worried about the repercussions of that user knowing they have been blocked.
"This is all just part of a swing of different things that Instagram, Facebook and a number of these social media platforms are trying to do to really improve the environment and the culture of these platforms because they really have become quite toxic and for many people, young people in particular, who are vulnerable, it's really quite damaging and destructive." Said Mr Black.
It has not yet been announced when the changes will be rolled out to the 'biggest' markets of the United Kingdom and the USA and will be interesting to see how these changes impact our user experience and also our mental health.
If you are struggling and need to speak to someone, check out our Get Help Page for organisations that can help.